Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral Therapy

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How can craniosacral therapy nourish you?

Craniosacral therapy is a non-invasive manual treatment based on the premise of improving the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid[1] surrounding the brain and spinal column through very gentle touch. Consisting of the skull, spinal column, sacrum, and associated tissues[2], the craniosacral system protects the brain and spinal cord and is closely related to osteopathy. 

Stresses on the body, caused by injury, illness, or simply normal activities of daily life are believed to cause tension and imbalance in the craniosacral system. By using very gentle touch, equivalent to just five grams of pressure[3], a practitioner aims to relieve these restrictions and support the body's natural abilities for self-healing. 

Sometimes also referred to as ‘cranial sacral therapy’, this modality was developed by John E Upledger, an osteopathic physician, on the basis of research completed between 1975 and 1983[4]. Craniosacral therapy is closely related to osteopathy, and often performed as part of an osteopathic treatment program alongside other techniques[5] such as myofascial release, stretching and massage.

A leading form of the practice is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy[6], which honours the origins of this work in osteopathic medicine yet presents a unique specialty field with a deeper understanding of energy dynamics within the therapy. 

Craniosacral Biodynamics goes beyond more mechanical approaches in craniosacral therapy by emphasizing the energy dynamics and processes that organize body functions. A clear understanding of these energetic processes takes therapeutic work to profound levels.  

Dr. William Garner Sutherland[7], the founder of cranial osteopathy, clearly described a primary energy impulse in the body that he called the Breath of Life. This primary energy expresses potency and an inherent ordering principle into the cerebrospinal fluid and structure of the body. 

Benefits of craniosacral therapy

Although there is debate about the mechanism by which craniosacral massage is believed to work[8], the therapy has been consistently reported to result in positive health outcomes. It continues to be a widely practised and respected modality, represented by industry associations in Australia[9] and worldwide. 

Research suggests craniosacral therapy may offer effective medium-term pain relief[10], as well as possibly reducing anxiety levels, improving healthy sleep and quality of life[11] for people with fibromyalgia. There is evidence to suggest craniosacral therapy may alleviate problems of the urinary tract and improve quality of life[12] in people suffering from multiple sclerosis. The results of a randomised controlled trial suggest craniosacral therapy may significantly reduce chronic neck pain[13] and associated disability. 

It has also been reported that craniosacral therapy may be an effective way to relieve migraine[14], although further research is recommended. Craniosacral therapy has also been studied as one of three modalities comprising a treatment program that may be effective in reducing the symptoms of post-concussive syndrome[15].

Craniosacral therapy may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Acquired brain injury (ABI)
Anxiety
Autism
Back pain
Balance, stability and coordination
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
Colic
Concussion and whiplash
Digestive and gastrointestinal issues
Energy and vitality
Fibromyalgia
Headaches and migraines
Hormonal issues
Immunity issues
Insomnia and sleep disorders
Learning difficulties
Mobility and movement
Mood imbalances
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Neck pain
Nervous system and neurological conditions
Pain relief
PTSD and trauma
Relaxation
Scoliosis
Sinusitis and sinus issues
Spinal cord injuries
Stress and tension
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
UTI and urinary conditions
Vertigo and dizziness
Show all

What to expect from a craniosacral therapy session

Check that the craniosacral therapy practitioner you wish to work with is registered with the Craniosacral Therapy Association of Australia. Members of this not-for-profit organisation are bound by a code of ethics ensuring the highest professional standards[16] and suitable qualifications for practitioners.

To begin, your craniosacral therapy practitioner will ask you about the health concern you are seeking treatment for, and might ask for an overview of your medical history. For the treatment, you will be invited to lie on your back on a massage table[17], and you will not need to remove any clothes. 

If you are pregnant, or if you have any health condition that makes lying on your back less comfortable, you can lie on your side or receive the therapy in a seated position[18]. Your practitioner will lightly place their hands on or under your head, hips, back[19], and other parts of your body to tune into your cerebrospinal pulse. 

During the treatment, which usually lasts about 40 to 60 minutes[20], your practitioner will give you a cranial massage and gently manipulate different areas around your neck, back and hips. This manipulation is intended to release tension or misalignment that might be impeding the natural flow of cerebrospinal fluid, as well as support the fluid’s circulation. In some cases, for example, if you’ve suffered a concussion, your practitioner might put on a glove and massage inside your mouth. Craniosacral therapy is a very soothing, relaxing treatment, and you might fall asleep[21] while your practitioner is working.

Craniosacral therapy is intended to complement, not replace, conventional medical treatment, especially for serious conditions. As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing craniosacral therapy. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your craniosacral therapy practitioner, who will be happy to address these and personalise the session to your individual requirements. 

References

  1. About Craniosacral Therapy | Craniosacral Therapy Association of Australia
  2. The Craniosacral System | iacst.ie
  3. What is CranioSacral Therapy? | upledger.com
  4. Discover CranioSacral Therapy | upledger.com
  5. Craniosacral Therapy | elementalhealth.net.au
  6. What is BCST? l Pacific Association of Craniosacral Therapists
  7. The work of William Garner Sutherland, D.O., D.Sc. (Hon.) | OSTMED.DR
  8. Craniosacral Therapy: The Effects of Cranial Manipulation on Intracranial Pressure and Cranial Bone Movement | Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy
  9. Welcome to Craniosacral Therapy Association of Australia | craniosacraltherapy.org.au
  10. A randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of craniosacral therapy on pain and heart rate variability in fibromyalgia patients | SAGE Journals
  11. Influence of Craniosacral Therapy on Anxiety, Depression and Quality of Life in Patients with Fibromyalgia | Hindawi
  12. Effect of craniosacral therapy on lower urinary tract signs and symptoms in multiple sclerosis | ScienceDirect
  13. Craniosacral Therapy for the Treatment of Chronic Neck Pain | PMC
  14. Is craniosacral therapy effective for migraine? Tested with HIT-6 Questionnaire | ScienceDirect
  15. CranioSacral Therapy and Visceral Manipulation: A New Treatment Intervention for Concussion Recovery | Medical Acupuncture
  16. CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA - CODE OF ETHICS | craniosacraltherapy.org.au
  17. What is Craniosacral Therapy? | The Craniosacral Therapy Association
  18. What Is Cranial Osteopathy? | Brisbane Osteopathic Centre
  19. Osteoperosis | Melbourne Wellness
  20. Benefits and uses | Healthline
  21. Cranio Sacral Therapy Torquay | Surfcoast Massage

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